Kids need to play together outside—here's how to do it safely

Here's why outdoor play, and lots of it, should be at the top of your to-do list, especially now.

safe outdoor playdate during the pandemic

As parents and caregivers, we've been on an emotional rollercoaster for months in the COVID-19 pandemic. So much is uncertain, kids can seem like they are regressing, and our one job—keeping them safe and happy—feels more challenging than ever.

One thing we're hearing over and over from our kids is: We miss playing with our friends outside.

Opportunities to come together and play are so needed, and we can see it and feel it in our kids. Going outside—in a safe and thoughtful way—is the best way to make that happen, and public health experts agree.

Time spent outdoors offers mental and physical benefits, and Americans aren't getting enough of it, these days especially. The New York Times recently cited concerns about "nature deficit disorder," a fear many experts have for kids who've been cooped up since March. It's a non-medical term for behavioral problems that may stem from too much time indoors—and not enough free play in nature. Add in our basic need to socialize, and getting together outdoors is a mental health combo we all need right now.

And though access to outdoor space varies from family to family, from private yards to patches of grass to city sidewalks and common courtyards, finding a way to get a dose of nature no matter where you live is game changing for everyone. Here's why outdoor play, and lots of it, should be at the top of your to-do list, especially now.

The outdoors are safer

Experts say that when we're together, it's much safer to be outside than in. And with proper safety protocols, kids and families can and should enjoy lots and lots of nature time this summer.

The New York Times cited a study from Japan of 100 cases, which found that coronavirus was 20 times more likely to transmit indoors than out, because of the dispersion of viral droplets. Breathing together in confined spaces carries tons of risk; outdoors that risk is much, much lower—and drops to negligible when you wear masks and maintain social distance.

For example, William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview that "the risk out of doors is lower than it is when we're in enclosed spaces." And Dr. Erin Bromage, a biology professor and immunology expert at UMass Dartmouth recently recommended families enjoy "any outdoor space with ample room for social distancing," including parks, beaches and trails.

Julia L. Marcus, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, recently shared similar thoughts in an interview: "I think going outside is important for health," she said. "We know that being outdoors is lower risk for coronavirus transmission than being indoors. On a sunny, beautiful weekend, I think going outside is indicated, but I also think there are things to do to reduce our risk."

The benefits outweigh the risks for kids

"People are thinking about these non-quantified risks and benefits," Dr. Amber Fyfe-Johnson, a pediatrician, epidemiologist and assistant professor at Washington State University, told Tinkergarten. "We want a number, but we don't have it. The numbers do suggest that between-child transmission of COVID is very low—it's still a risk—but people in the public health realm are saying it's important to get kids outside."

With the right approach, we can manage the risk

In another interview, Bromage stressed that "it's the types of interactions" we have outside that matter. Common-sense guidelines apply: Keep 6 feet of distance if you can, wear masks (if you're over 2) and don't share food or utensils with people outside your immediate family.

Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has also encouraged parents to get kids together with friends outside this summer and, to keep it safe, wear masks, keep distance and wash hands frequently.

How do we put these precautions in place?

One key is to avoid big crowds and do your best to maintain social distancing protocols, especially those that have been mandated where you live. To teach little kids social distancing, we can do things like help kids envision a 6-foot personal space bubble and remind children of the reason that we are keeping our distance: We want to keep ourselves and our friends safe. Older kids can get that message in even greater detail: Keeping a 6-foot bubble makes it much less likely for the virus to spread.

Children are wired to physically connect, but with practice and time, their impulse control can catch up and they can learn to interact—and enjoy it—from a safe distance. Tinkergarten, the outdoor early education provider I founded in 2015, is kicking off in-person classes where they're allowed, based on established safety guidelines. We'll partner with families to put protocols in place—like social distancing, teaching kids to respect a personal space bubble in fun, kid-friendly and supportive ways (like walking like a lobster when they need to make more room) and masks for everyone over age 2 as recommended by the CDC.

While the outdoors are safer in terms of lower potential for viral transmission, it's important to acknowledge that we don't all enjoy equal access. Historically, parks and green spaces haven't been a place where people of all races have been made to feel at ease or even safe—and that history still negatively impacts how some people experience that natural world. There's a lot we can all do to help make the outdoors more accessible to everyone. Organizations like In Solidarity, Outdoor Afro, Diversify the Outdoors and Soul Trak are working to right the imbalance.

Though COVID has made it all the more apparent, the outdoors offer an ideal environment for children to play and learn. With schools' strategies shifting and parents trying to juggle working with childcare in quarantine, it's a relief to know that when kids play outside, they're naturally learning and developing important skills, from sensory engagement to empathy.

This post was originally published on Tinkergarten.

Founder, Tinkergarten

In This Article

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn on how they’re ‘sneak teaching’ kids with their new show "Do, Re & Mi"

    The best friends created a musical animated show that's just as educational as it is entertaining

    Amazon Studios

    This episode is sponsored by Tonies. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn have been best friends since they met as young singers and actors more than 15 years ago, and now they're collaborating on a new Amazon Original animated kids series called Do, Re & Mi. The show, which follows best birds Do, Re and Mi as they navigate the world around them while also belting out catchy tunes, is just as educational as it is entertaining.

    On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Bell and Tohn talk to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about how they're "sneak teaching" kids with their new show and why music is such an important focal point.

    "It was basically our mission from the very beginning to 'sneak music education' into kids' lives, hands, brains, all of it," Tohn admits.

    "There's so much science and data to support that [music] helps kids, their brains grow with math, with social skills. It literally can change your neuroplasticity. You can put music of their favorite genre or timeframe on, in an Alzheimer's ward, and they will come back online for a couple minutes. I mean, it's crazy," Bell, who has two daughters of her own, adds. "You know, music can bind a lot of families together. It can bind friendships together. And it's just a show that you can feel really good about. We want to get it in front of as many kids as possible, because I don't like the fact that some kids won't have exposure to music. Their brains deserve to grow just as much as everyone else's."

    The first season of Do, Re & Mi premiered on September 17th and its creators recorded 52 different songs for the show that range from reggae and pop to country, blues and jazz.

    "That's what's so exciting about this show," Tohn gushes. "Not only are the lessons we're teaching for everyone, but every episode has a musical genre, a musical lesson and an emotional lesson. And so there really is so much to learn."

    Elsewhere in the episode, Bell tells Tenety about how she made literal toolboxes that carry different regulation tools to help her kids calm down (one is "find a song you love and sing out loud") and why having a village is crucial to surviving motherhood, especially in a pandemic, while Tohn details her special friendship not only with Bell, but with her daughters, too.

    To hear more about the show, Bell's experiences in motherhood, and her enduring friendship with Tohn, listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.


    12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

    Eager to get out and go? Start here

    Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

    Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

    With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

    As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

    If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

    Tayla™️ XP Travel System

    Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.

    Add to Babylist


    Iora Bedside Bassinet

    Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.

    Add to Babylist


    Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

    Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.

    Add to Babylist


    Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

    A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.

    Add to Babylist


    Coral XP Infant Car Seat

    With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.

    Add to Babylist


    Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.

    Add to Babylist


    Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.

    Add to Babylist


    Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

    With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.

    Add to Babylist

    Tayla Travel System

    This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.

    Add to Babylist

    Modern Diaper Bag

    When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.

    Add to Babylist


    Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

    Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.

    Add to Babylist

    Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

    From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.

    Add to Babylist

    Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

    This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Boost 1

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter


    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.


    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.


    Lumbar pillow


    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?


    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    10 Montessori phrases for kids who are struggling with back to school

    The first day of school can be hard for everyone, mama. Here's how to use the Montessori method to help your child adjust.

    No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help ease their back-to-school nerves.

    More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

    Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school.

    1. "You're safe here."

    If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

    2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

    It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

    After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

    3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

    Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

    It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

    4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

    Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

    If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

    Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

    5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

    Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

    If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

    Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

    6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

    Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

    If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

    If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

    7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

    While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

    Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

    They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

    Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

    8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

    Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

    Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

    If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

    Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

    9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

    Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

    It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

    10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

    Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

    It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

    To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

    Back to School

    Amy Schumer perfectly nails how society brushes off women's menstrual pain

    Admitting you're in pain doesn't make you a "drama queen," she says in a new video about her endometriosis.

    Amy Schumer-Instagram

    In another post-surgery video, Amy Schumer is keeping it real with a reminder for women everywhere: you're not a "drama queen" because you're in pain. And periods shouldn't be painful to the point of preventing you from functioning.

    Earlier this week, Schumer shared an update about her health after undergoing surgery to remove her appendix and her uterus due to severe endometriosis. For years, she's used her platform to encourage women to advocate for their bodies and their health because she knows firsthand what it's like to have her own pain dismissed.

    She was motivated to share her latest update after receiving the test results from the tissue they removed from her body.

    "I just wanted to say that what I learned today is that your periods shouldn't be painful," she begins the 10-minute video. "Not everyone's are. From the time I got my first period, I was knocked over, vomiting from the pain."

    She notes that as women, we're constantly told to downplay our own pain because a lot of the time, society dismisses it entirely. She says when that happens, it's because women are painted as "weak." But that's the furthest thing from the truth.

    "Culturally, I just feel like I grew up believing that too. I assumed I was being a drama queen," she admits.

    She's really shedding light on the medical disparities between men and women—and she's not wrong about any of it.

    Research shows women in pain are much more likely than men to receive prescriptions for sedatives, rather than pain medication. One study even showed women who received coronary bypass surgery were only half as likely to be prescribed painkillers compared to men who had undergone the same procedure. Another study shows that women also wait an average of 65 minutes before receiving pain medication for acute abdominal pain in the ER in the U.S., while men wait only 49 minutes.

    A 2000 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that gender biases in the medical system can also have fatal consequences: women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of a heart attack, simply because women present different symptoms than men. And, unfortunately, most disease diagnoses are based on male physiology—even now.

    Schumer says her experience with endometriosis pain for most of her life has inspired her to continue to use her platform to shout about it from the rooftops in order to inspire and help other women.

    "Let me just tell you, my pain is real," she says. "Your pain is real. We have to advocate for ourselves, we have to speak up. And, you know what? I'm worried this video is annoying, but I don't care, because I hope that it helps one woman go and find out why she's in so much pain."

    Celebrity News

    10 tips to try to get your baby to sleep soundly 😴

    The first six months of a baby's life can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in the sleep department.

    You knew that having a baby would change your sleeping routine, but it can be hard to really understand just how much until you're in the thick of it. While young infants do spend most of their day sleeping (up to 19 hours for some!), they typically only sleep for short windows of time. This means that you're also waking up frequently to care for them—and mama, it's exhausting and overwhelming. You're in a constant state of wondering how to get your baby to sleep, and overwhelmed by the physical and emotional nature of it.

    From the stress of a baby dealing with reflux or colic to the pressure we feel to get our babies to sleep through the night, navigating the challenges of how to get an infant to sleep is hard—really hard.

    As a sleep consultant, I want to share my best baby sleep tips with you, because ultimately the most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone. Your baby will sleep (and you will, too)—I promise.

    Here are my top 10 baby sleep tips for infants.

    1. Understand that you know your baby best.

    While it may be tempting to listen to what others suggest about how to put your baby to sleep or how long they should be sleeping, try to trust your own instincts. The more you stress about 'not doing the right thing', the more you're taking the joy out of this sweet time with your baby.

    Co-sleeping expert, Dr. James McKenna says:

    "Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority. You are spending the most time with your baby, and every baby is different. Infants, children and their parents intersect in all kinds of diverse ways. Indeed, there is no template for any relationship we develop. When it comes to sleeping arrangements, many families develop and exhibit very fluid notions of where their baby 'should' sleep. Parents with less rigid ideas about how and where their babies should sleep are generally much happier and far less likely to be disappointed when their children cannot perform the way they are 'supposed to' — i.e. sleep through the night."

    Remember that you can always talk to your pediatrician about specific baby sleep concerns and your unique situation.

    2. Don't worry about 'do's" and "don'ts' of baby sleep.

    It's really important to not get caught up in too many 'sleep do's and don'ts' for the first few months. For the first three months especially, you really only need to be feeding, changing and putting them back down to sleep. For those with babies dealing with reflux or colic, you know that sleep is a challenge—so do whatever you have to do!

    3. Remember that there are no negative ways for a baby to go to sleep—breastfeeding to sleep, using a pacifier, etc.

    As a sleep coach, I tell clients to let their babies go to sleep how they want to, whether that's being rocked or pushed around in a stroller.

    The term 'negative sleep association' frustrates me because even adults have associations with going to sleep—using white noise, reading a book or having a specific set of sheets that we prefer, for example. There is nothing negative about needing something to help us relax into sleep.

    But when rocking your little one to sleep is no longer something you want to do because it's taking a full hour, then change it (if it is taking that long, then it's likely not working for them, either). Although it might be met with some resistance, if you are gentle about the transition and give your little one time to adjust, the resistance will be minimal.

    If your child loves sleeping on you during the day and it's no longer viable for you because you have things you'd like to do, try letting them fall asleep on you and work on transferring them to a crib or bassinet. Wait until they are in a deep sleep and try putting them in the bassinet feet first and slowly lay them down. This will remove the feeling of falling that can sometimes wake them up.

    4. Know it's OK if babies wake up frequently through the night.

    Newborns have two sleep states, active sleep (which is similar to adults' REM sleep) and quiet sleep (similar to our non-REM sleep). Studies have found that active sleep plays a necessary role in preventing SIDS. Fortunately, babies spend more time in active sleep from 2 am to 6 am, so during this time, they are much more likely to wake if they are hungry, cold, wet or startled by not breathing.

    Babies' sleep cycles are actually shorter than ours (lasting only 50 to 60 minutes) and therefore they can experience a partial arousal every hour or so. There is a biological reason for waking: it is for survival. In order for children to grow, they need to eat and therefore need to wake to eat.

    If a child is too cold or too hot, they need to wake to let mom know. If a child isn't breathing, they need to wake. Anything that forces a child to sleep too deep too soon is dangerous. Active sleep also has other benefits, it is thought to be smart sleep because the brain isn't resting, it increases the blood flow to the brain and is thought to be responsible for more rapid brain growth.

    5. Keep your baby close when you can.

    This is true both at night and during the day. There is absolutely no need to rush baby into their own room. It's important to note that a Harvard study found that room-sharing for the first six months can play a role in lessening the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

    If they are still waking several times at night and you are exhausted, try co-sleeping (I always have to say that I am not allowed to promote bedsharing so by co-sleeping, I mean room sharing). You will get the extra sleep you need and your baby will get the closeness they love.

    Keeping baby close during the day is also important. If they want to nap on you, go for it. You cannot spoil a baby by snuggling them, so look at the amount of time you are holding them. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the daily tasks and the total amount of time you spent holding them is very little. But, remember, mama needs a break, too—call on your village so they can take the baby while you take some time for yourself.

    In order for a child to become independent, they must first be securely attached. Babies need physical proximity, sensing the person they are attached to through smell, sight and sound. They also need a parent to respond sensitively and consistently when they signal.

    6. Avoid overstimulation for your baby.

    It is so easy to forget that babies are little and everything is new to them. Going on a walk is stimulating all of baby's senses—new noises, smells and things to see. We often forget this and slip into the role of 'director of amusement' needing to stimulate babies with toys all day.

    Our daily activities impact sleep, so try to wind the entire family down before bed. A trip to the grocery store right before a nap might make for one very overstimulated baby, so give them a longer wind-down if you want them to nap.

    7. Take stock of your baby's sleep environment.

    New babies are sensitive to different factors. If it's too hot, they will not want to sleep. If it smells like cleaning products or any other strong scent, their sleep might be interrupted. If you are turning on a night light to change a diaper, baby may not want to go back to sleep.

    If your child is highly sensitive and their pajamas are itchy or have tags or the detergent you are using is bothering their skin, then this could impact their sleep, too. If your house is noisy around bedtime, consider a white noise machine. Or take a look at the temperature and air to get of sense of what may affect baby.

    8. Try a motion nap.

    Use a baby carrier and let your baby sleep while you stroll. Many babies love motion naps so if you're having trouble with sleep, try it out.

    Consider your lifestyle. Do you like to get out of the house? Do you enjoy hikes and walks as a family? If so, get baby used to sleeping in the carrier. Don't worry that they will never sleep in their crib.

    Most babies that I work with younger than 6 months need at least one motion nap a day—it's rare to see a baby at this age taking all of their naps in the crib. Switch up your naps, too—maybe you snuggle for one nap, use the carrier for a second and get out in the stroller for a third nap.

    9. Celebrate small sleep successes.

    Maybe you got them to sleep for 20 minutes so you could take a shower (congrats!). Perhaps they took a pacifier and looked comfortable for a few minutes while you made a cup of tea (amazing!). Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins when you're in the midst of baby sleep struggles.

    10. Take care of yourself.

    Please do things for yourself and ask for help. It is so important to take a walk or go get a coffee or spend an evening out once in a while. Ask your parents, your partner or a close friend to help, even if it is only for an hour so you can shower and read a few pages of an actual book, for example.

    It is imperative that you are in a good headspace when you are with a newborn baby.

    Remember that you are doing a wonderful job. You are the absolute best person to be caring for your baby. The first six months are SO hard—but don't be afraid to ask for help. Make sure you make time for yourself at the end of the day.

    A version of this post was originally published on August 1, 2018. It has been updated.

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